Last Saturday morning, we packed a picnic basket and hit the road. Our destination? Kentucky’s Natural Bridge State Park. This natural wonder features several challenging hikes, but the stunning views that await you make it all worth it.
A Rainy Start
We arrived around lunch time – in a downpour! We had driven three hours to get there, so we decided to eat our picnic lunch in the car and pray for a bit of sunshine. Fortunately the sun did decide to make an appearance while we were eating. We were excited to get to do a bit of exploring after all. After a quick trip into Hemlock Lodge to pick up a trail map, we were ready to do some hiking.
The Original Trail
The walk from the Hemlock Lodge to the Natural Bridge along the Original Trail is less than a mile, but I have to admit it seems so much longer due to the fact that it is nearly all uphill. Fortunately there are plenty of informational signs along the way to stop and read while you take a sip from your water bottle and catch your breath.
If you need to take a longer break, there are also 4 shelters along the way where you can sit for a few minutes and rest your legs. The shelters were built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The cool thing is our son just learned about the CCC in school during a unit on the Great Depression. So he was excited to show his teacher pictures of the shelters that are still in use today.
There really is some unusual vegetation along the trails in the Natural Bridge State Park. I commented to Kevin that some of the plants, like the Cucumber Tree, looked like they belong in the Tropics – not Kentucky.
Phew! We made it! We were so excited to finally reach the Natural Bridge. The Original Trail deposits you at the base. The Natural Bridge is truly a site to behold, but unfortunately its size and the surrounding forest make it hard to get a good picture of the whole thing at once.
The View from the Top of the Natural Bridge
If you are truly adventurous, you can walk under the arch to a natural fissure that allows you to make your way to to the top. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, as you can see from the image above. No, Kevin isn’t really stuck. He’s just being goofy! If you are scared of heights, you might want to skip the trip to the top. However, those of you willing to brave it will be rewarded with some spectacular views.
There are no guardrails or barriers to spoil your view while you are on top the Natural Bridge. So you will definitely want to keep an eye on your kids. Although we saw some toddlers up there, I don’t think I personally would bring a little one up there. School age kids should do just fine though.
After enjoying the view from atop the Natural Bridge, we headed towards Lookout Point so we could get a better picture of the arch. We stopped along the way to watch the Sky Lift for a bit. I thought the tickets were a bit pricey at $11 for adults, but the kids were begging to ride it. If we hadn’t been worried that it was going to take off and rain again, we probably would have bought tickets.
Along the trail to Lookout Point, we stopped and watched a woodpecker for a few minutes. He was only about 4 feet away from us. We were amazed that we didn’t scare him away.
If you want to get a good picture of the entire arch, then I highly recommend visiting Lookout Point. It’s a short walk from where the Sky Lift lets off.
Balanced Rock Trail
After we took in the sights, we headed back across the arch to the Balanced Rock Trailhead. The Balanced Rock Trail is the steepest of all the trails in the park, which is why most people prefer to tackle it going downhill. Despite the steep grade, we didn’t really have any difficulty with the trail due to the switchbacks and numerous staircases.
Just after we reached the Balanced Rock, the sky opened up and it started to pour. Unfortunately we had left our ponchos in the car.
We briefly took refuge in a small cave, but the rain wasn’t showing any signs of letting up so we continued on our way. We all looked like drowned rats by the time we made it back to the lodge! So our adventures got cut short. I would love to return another time and explore some of the other trails.
So tell me… Have you ever been to Kentucky’s Natural Bridge State Park? Are there any natural bridges in your area of the country?